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British workers putting in longest hours in the EU, TUC analysis finds

  • Full-time employees work two and a half weeks more a year than the EU average

Workers in the UK are putting the longest hours in the EU, according to new TUC analysis published today (Wednesday).

Full-time employees in Britain worked an average of 42 hours a week in 2018, nearly two hours more than the EU average – equivalent to an extra two and a half weeks a year.

Britain’s “long-hours culture” is not having a positive impact on productivity, says the TUC. In similar economies to ours, workers are much more productive for each hour they work.

For example, full-time employees in Germany work 1.8 hours a week less than those in the UK but are 14.6% more productive. And in Denmark – the EU country with the shortest hours – workers put in over four hours less than UK workers, but productivity in Denmark is 23.5% higher.

The average full-time week in Britain has shortened by just 18 minutes over the past decade, nowhere near fast enough to close the gap with other countries. Even if the EU average stayed the same, at current rates of progress it would take 63 years for UK workers to get the same amount of free time as their European counterparts.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Britain’s long hours culture is nothing to be proud of.

“It’s robbing workers of a decent home life and time with their loved ones. Overwork, stress and exhaustion have become the new normal.

“It’s time for a change. Other countries have shown that reducing working hours isn’t only good for workers, it can boost productivity.

“As new technology changes our economy, the benefits should be shared by working people. That means shorter hours, more time with family and friends, and decent pay for everyone.”

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